DJ SPINNA with DJs SERIOUS, KOLA, DEE JAY NAV, SHINGO and RICHARD BROOKS at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (February 7), $12. www.expansions.ca Rating: NNNNN
The success of British imprint BBE's Beat Generation series lies in the freedom it gives its artists.
The ongoing string of releases has become an underground sensation in the hiphop community because it spotlights the producer rather than the MC.
Producers are given 60 minutes to express themselves and experiment with several styles that might not make the cut in their higher-profile gigs behind the mixing desk.
Pete Rock, Marley Marl and JayDee have all stepped up with unorthodox mixes combining jazz, funk, bossa nova and soul in their beats. The latest instalment features Brooklyn's DJ Spinna, though you get the impression that he didn't need BBE's blank slate to stretch out.
Spinna's made his name moving from style to style, beginning with hiphop but quickly touching on house and techno. His entry into the Beat Generation series, Here To There, is predictably varied, ranging from straight-up underground hiphop to raw funk, rock and gently thumping electronic beats.
"This is really just a reflection of who I am now," Spinna offers from his cellphone. "I've worked myself to the point now that I'm comfortable with putting out any type of record and the public won't bug out.
"My secret is just keeping everybody happy. I'm not abandoning anyone. I can still make a dope hiphop record as well as a dope house record and everything in between. No one blinks."
The problem is getting one audience to cross over and get down with the other. When Spinna brings his record crates into Roxy Blu Friday for a three-hour throwdown, those expecting a set of pure hiphop, funk or house will be disappointed. It's unfortunate.
The success of producers like the Neptunes, who gleefully mix up their beats, suggests that there's an audience for scrambled sounds like Spinna's, but it's clearly a struggle.
"There's not much crossover at all," Spinna laments. "A lot of music lovers used to be into everything, and those people weren't told that you can only be a house head or a hiphop head. People of this generation don't cross paths, and that's what this record is for.
"The kinds of records I'm checking for are all over the place. I'm really feeling the British broken beat stuff. That music comes from house and hiphop but takes it further. You can tell they're trying to push things. Unfortunately, there's nothing on that level here in North America."